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The lord is my shepherd (Psa. 23:1) – Message from Primate Okoh – Part 5

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Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, Primate of all Nigeria (Anglican Communion)

The overriding implication of this theme is that we are the LORD’s sheep, and until we see ourselves as such, He may not play the role of a shepherd in our affairs.

Before we can say like King David, ‘The LORD is my Shepherd’, we must have first of all regard ourselves as His sheep. The author of the hymns, “All people that on earth do dwell,” Rev. W. Kethe, in stanza 2 wrote: “The LORD ye know is God indeed, Without our aid he did us make; We are His flock, He doth us feed, And for His sheep He doth us take” – re-echoing the Bible: “Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” (Psa. 103:3).

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As individuals, the Church and nation at large, the LORD is calling us and our leaders, both political and religious, to return to Him as straying sheep return to the shepherd. Generally, in the Gospels, the shepherd metaphor is applied to Jesus, not to the disciples (Mat. 26:31; Luke 15:3-7; John 10:11).

The disciples are most often described as sheep, not as shepherds.” While addressing the believers in his General Epistles, the Apostle Peter said: “For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1Pet.2: 25).

Jesus is the Shepherd of our souls. If we can return to Him, He will provide us with nurture, protection, guidance, etc. We would be able to say like King David; “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

To be His sheep means to depend on Him in everything, as the sheep depends on the shepherd for everything. It may seem to be weakness on the sheep’s part, but with regards to ability to obediently relate with the shepherd, it is strength. The Bibles admonishes us thus: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes…” (Prov. 3:5-7).
Shepherding The Church Of Nigeria

In this Standing Committee, God is calling us to see the Church of Nigeria as a single flock, irrespective of our ecclesiastical and organisational divisions and sub-divisions. The essence of our unity of purpose cannot be over-emphasised. At all levels of our organisational structures, there are leaders.

Christ is our Chief Shepherd, but across our organisational hierarchy, from the national to the grassroots, we have under-shepherds in descending order of authority.

This is the foundation of the uniqueness of the Anglican Church, as well as the secret grain of our discipline. We should not destroy it because of anything or sacrifice this priceless asset bequeathed to us by our forebears on the altar of selfishness. We must individually invest in our unity sacrificially, so that the coming generations of Anglicans will not condemn us.

Shepherding the Church of Nigeria is not any individual’s exclusive job. Everyone in any leadership position in this Church is equally involved. There is need for inclusiveness, so that all parts of our large Church would have a sure sense of belonging. There is need for fairness and justice in all our administration, so that nobody or section is marginalised or denied a voice. We are charged to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). Peace is priceless. In the absence of peace, we cannot make any meaningful progress. Therefore, let us employ these ingredients to enable us survive and succeed in our mission to the world.

(Culled from THE OPENING ADDRESS by His Grace, The Most Revd. Nicholas D. Okoh, MA, Fss, Mss, LLD, DD.; Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate Of All Nigeria to The Standing Committee of the Church Of Nigeria held in the Cathedral Church of St Andrew Warri from February 4 to 8, 2019)


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